Rachel Mairs

Rachel Mairs (University of Reading): ”Graeco-Bactrian Administration: The Achaemenid Blueprint”


Recently published documentary evidence presents us with the opportunity to examine in some detail the period of transition from Achaemenid to Greek rule in Bactria. Aramaic administrative documents continued to be produced, at least in the short term, after Alexander’s conquests (Naveh and Shaked 2012), dated according to regnal years of the Macedonian conqueror. How might this evidence be used to support or modify our picture of the administration of Hellenistic Bactria? Does an Achaemenid blueprint continue to provide the basis for the Hellenistic bureaucracy beyond the initial period of political transition?


This paper will employ textual and archaeological evidence to explore the interactions, and potential conflicts, between Greek and Achaemenid models of administration, governance and law in Hellenistic Bactria, from the late fourth century BC to the mid-second century BC. The available evidence is limited, but demands to be exploited more thoroughly than hitherto (Mairs 2014). I will argue that Greek immigration led to the importation of Greek practices in some areas: notably, personal financial transactions. Where the Achaemenid blueprint is most visible is in the management of Bactria’s resources. At Ai Khanoum (Bernard ed. 1973-), a well-known city in eastern Bactria, which has been only gradually published over the past forty years or more, the presence of a palace treasury and other institutions whose closest architectural comparanda are in the Near East suggests that effective Achaemenid techniques of economic exploitation and resource extraction continued to be used. Historical sources, such as Polybios’ Histories (11.34), read in this light, also reveal the persistence of Achaemenid models for the maximisation of revenue from everything from lapis lazuli to elephants.


Bernard et al. eds. (1973-2013) Fouilles d’Aï Khanoum I-IX. Paris: de Boccard.


Mairs, Rachel (2014) The Hellenistic Far East: Archaeology, Language and Identity in Greek Central Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Naveh, Joseph and Shaul Shaked (2012) Aramaic Documents from Ancient Bactria (Fourth Century B.C.E.) from the Khalili Collections. (Studies in the Khalili Collection.) London: The Khalili Family Trust.

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